As open water swim season gets underway, it is important to recognize that while swimming outdoors is one of the joys of summer, it is very different than swimming in a pool. The most apparent difference is the lack of a controlled environment and conditions that vary minute to minute.
Because open water swimming is unpredictable, safety needs to be a primary concern.
The buddy system
Open water swimming is always better with a buddy. Even experienced and elite swimmers bring along a training partner whenever possible. However, even with a buddy, accidents happen. Staying close to the shore makes it easier to get help, if needed.
If you are going out for a long swim, and don’t have a swim partner, get someone to follow you with a kayak or paddleboard.
Know the course
Review your course beforehand, be aware of your surroundings, and understand the water conditions. Some areas, such as Lac Tremblant, have a designated swim course. If there is a marked course, follow it.
Check in with the lifeguard or the swim training center before you leave the shore. At Lac Tremblant, the regional IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant training center (CIRIM) can provide temperature data, swim buoys, maps of the swim course, and other information.
Use the right equipment
A wetsuit will keep you warm and will add buoyancy, which is helpful on long swims. A floating device is also a good idea, which allows you to rest if needed, as is wearing a brightly colored swim cap so you can be seen easier. Dark shaded swim goggles help block the sun, and for you, techno geeks, a GPS watch with swim features is always helpful.
Open water swimming offers a wonderful feeling of freedom – but accidents are less likely to happen if you make safety a priority.